links for 2007-06-07

4 Deaths from Rare Brain Disease in NE Indiana

A very disturbing Associated Press report about a rare set of deaths in the Fort Wayne area.

FORT WAYNE, Ind. -- A rare degenerative brain disorder was suspected in the deaths of four people in northeastern Indiana during the past five months, health officials said.

Allen County Health Commissioner Deborah McMahan said the deaths were suspected to have been caused by Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease. After the third death, McMahan contacted the state health department and asked that the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention be notified.

Northeastern Indiana's hospitals serve about 1 million people, McMahan estimated. Based on CDC figures of fewer than 300 cases a year across the country, the Fort Wayne area might expect one death from the disease a year.

Testing of brain tissue from two victims was planned as that is considered the only definitive way to determine whether a person had CJD. Health officials said the four deaths appear to be from classic CJD and not related to mad cow disease, which is linked to the rare variant CJD found in humans.

Pam Jacquay of New Haven lost her 53-year-old husband, John, to the disease in March. She said that within weeks after Christmas he couldn't drive and soon forgot how to do common tasks such as dressing and shaving.

"One minute he could do something and the next minute it made no sense to him. ... In the last week of his life he lost any ability to communicate with us at all," Jacquay said. "This just wasn't the way it was supposed to happen."

She said she hoped health officials continue to investigate the reasons for the area's number of cases and that increased awareness will lead to treatment for what is now an incurable disease.

State epidemiologist Bob Teclaw said he was not drawing any conclusions from the deaths in northeastern Indiana. At this point, "we're in the wait-and-see mode," he said.

Well, that makes me feel safer. Think maybe instead of "waiting and seeing" perhaps they should be looking at what all these people had in common? Like what food with imported ingredients they all ate, or what meat products they consumed?

UPDATE: This is passed along by one of my readers:

OK - mad cow - possibly through feed given to cattle here in Indiana via grain mills that also process venison. And - have they looked into the chronic wasting disease issue? That is a big bad TABOO subject here in Indiana because of the backroom political deals done by the current administration to accommodate canned hunt operations which are supposedy illegal on the books. Nevertheless, the Amish are raising shooter bucks to be sold for canned hunts and canned hunts are continuing and the DNR openly says they have "prosecutorial discretion" and do not prosecute on canned hunt violations. Obviously, you can see where a truck can be driven through the loopholes monitoring CWD. ALSO - NE (McIntosh/Reed) Indiana has two canned hunt operations that have violated various other permit issues and have been allowed to continue. All very interesting. SO - am wondering if the Chronic Wasting aspect is being seriously looked into. Let me know. I have been following this for eight years - the lack of agricultural/DNR oversight in Indiana on CWD and canned hunting.

Take a look at this link on Chronic Wasting Disease, which is basically a disease that attacks deer, in the same family of diseases as Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease and Mad cow disease.

A bit more from the reader quoted above:

Originally, there were great plans to monitor for CWD - in Lake County, IN there was even an additional feel for picking up roadkill because CWD was reported in nearby Illinois. Most of those precautions have been done away with once the ten operations were allowed to operate because of a special court injunction. It just all went off the radar screen.

Yes, these cases can be sporadic - but the sudden appearance of these "sporadic" cases defies the odds. Venison is ground up and fed to cattle. We have rendering plants that do this. At first there were strict requirements for animal feed plants in Indiana that used venision (road kill) and the DNR even wrote the Feds a complaining letter because they were not able to monitor the rendering plants because the plants knew that if even one case of CWD was found, they would be shut down. So - everyone took their chances and it all just blew over. Maybe ...... who knows.

Anyway, I have that letter that was sent to the feds and also the DNR said they would check thousands of deer for CWD and, of course, did not. I am by no means saying this is the reason. Not at all. But - it is a dirty little secret in Indiana. If everyone's luck holds out, no one will get the CJD that would result from chronic wasting disease. The domestic deer are monitored minimally and only recently. The secret shooter buck industry works behind the scenes. The motto of the shooter buck farmers in WI was - this is in print (shoot shovel and shut up). Of course, prion borne disease cannot be sterilized or buried. That is the threat of it. Incineration of the elk out west that had CWD was astronomicaly expensive. Anyway, I could go on and on. Just some food for thought. Venison can be put in chili, etc - the blades used to cut through deer spines can be infected - no sterilization works. That is why the rendering plants did NOT ALLOW the INdiana DNR to come in and inspect. Interesting, no?

links for 2007-06-06

links for 2007-06-05

Why Twitter? To Make Bitter People Write Bad Humor Articles

My friend Dan was googling his twitter ID (funny!) and discovered he'd been quoted in a "humor" article about Twitter on Funny Times, which he of course shared with his twitter pals, because - even more funny. Too bad that the article was yet another frivolous critique of Twitter. Allow me to add my two cents interspersed with this guy's "jokes." (Hey, it's my site; I'll say what I want.)

Why Twitter? Because I'm Here

by Ray Lesser

A new communications service named Twitter now makes it possible to blurt out the first thing that pops in your head and broadcast it instantly to all your friends and followers, wherever they may be, via Internet, IM, and text message. Twitter invites its several hundred thousand members to answer the question, "What are you doing?" in 140 characters or less, and they do - millions of times a day. Each message is called a "tweet."

When I checked Twitter's website, dan1657 had "just got in to work, forgot my phone charging at home." Less than five seconds later, omaregan was "Just chilling!" Another user tweeted, "Working on stuff and things."

Is anyone really interested in this omnipresent bombardment of barely conscious stream of consciousness?

Yes. In fact, dan1657 is a friend of mine, and I do in fact care that he left his phone at home on the charger. Because that means I can't text or call him. See, the point of twitter is to tell stuff to your friends. Not necessarily to the whole planet. If the planet chooses to listen in, that's the planet's problem. Maybe the planet should get a job or something. Like maybe, writing something that's actually funny for a humor site. At this point, making fun of twitter is like the ubiquitous "your seat cushion can be used as a flotation device" joke for lame stand-up comics who make a practice of missing the point entirely. (Tip: none of those comedians get a TV show where they're married to a hot skinny wife. And neither will you with your tired twitter critiques.)

Really, why Twitter? And why blog? Why podcast? Why text? Why instant message?


Sorry, no. The answer is actually - because people I know want to know what I'm doing, and sometimes people I don't know want to know, too. Not funny, maybe, but at least true.

[Snipping out boring paragraphs]

If you put a million Tweetie birds together in a cage, an occasional tweet is bound to be interesting. Some of the Top 10 Twitters recently:

o Memoir of the Day: "I start things, but I never" - D. Stahl

o At Ritual Coffee, the hand-crafted sign by the register now reads, "Please, no blogging in line."

o "Internet, I'm in labor. Do something."

Shorter: "Sometimes, people I don't know are actually funny when I eavesdrop on their conversations. I'm also good at overhearing things on the bus."

But, even the most dedicated technophile can't be omnipresent all the time, informing the world about their latest tooth-flossing or tuna sandwich lunch. That's why MyCyberTwin was created. This new web-based software allows you to set up your own Virtual Clone. By answering a comprehensive series of questions about your views on subjects such as sex, politics and religion, you program your CyberTwin with as much of your personality and background information as you like, enabling it to act as a virtual public-relations agent when you're not available. Once you've created a CyberTwin chatterbot, you can place it on your website or blog to converse with anyone who happens by. Is it you or is it CyberTwin? Only your webmaster knows for sure.

[Snipping out more boring paragraphs]

First - Eric! Tuna sandwich call out!

Second - What a great idea. Because being an unreachable, distance ass will keep a lot of friends for you. How clever! I can see why this guy wrote a bunch of boring paragraphs on this. His "cybertwin" probably wrote this whole article for him whilst he was pooping.

Evan Williams, the founder of Obvious, feels that Twitter is also primarily interesting as a way to communicate to small groups of friends. "It has the potential to be a really substantial part of how people keep in touch with each other." I guess getting a tweet from a friend who's "shopping for soy milk. Blue box or red ..." might feel more substantial than going online to ask their CyberTwin what they like to eat for breakfast.

Well really, it depends if they're bringing home the soy milk to your house. Ray's mistake throughout is failing to realize that often tweets have a context he's not privy to, because he's essentially eavesdropping. But I've already ranted about critiques of being wired while shopping, so I'll let this one go.

Staying constantly, instantly available can lead to its own perils. Eric Meyer, a 37-year-old Cleveland web consultant, had to rethink who to allow in his "friends" circle after experiencing a Twit-storm of 30-40 messages a day from one friend pondering what to have for dinner and commercials spotted on TV. "Who doesn't have a friend like that, who shows up at a party and just won't stop talking?"

Um, can you spot the unintentional irony in the above paragraph, or do you really need me to point it out to you?

When I consider this techno-groping towards a stream of consciousness connection among friends, I can't help but think about James Joyce's Ulysses, the first great stream of consciousness novel. Anyone who's ever read it cannot forget Molly Bloom's soliloquy and her description of Leopold Bloom's proposal, "and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes."

Although the entire novel takes place during one day, it took Joyce seven years to write Ulysses. Perhaps the first thing that pops into your head isn't necessarily the thing that you want to broadcast to the world. As someone tweeted, "Noticing that Twitter gives one the illusion of writing without the actual burden of writing. All fluff - no stuff!" Even if you don't have seven years, maybe it's worth taking more than seven seconds to think about what you want to say.

1) Like I believe he actually read Ulysses. Everyone quotes that Molly quote, which is a pretty good indication that they haven't read it. I believe that's even the quote on wikipedia, if I'm not mistaken. (Update: Yep, I'm right.)

2) Yes, because Joyce never had a conversation with his friends, or wrote letters to people, he just sat around all day, pondering the meaning of life and writing and re-writing weighty tomes with his deep, deep thoughts. I'll bet Joyce would've twittered given the chance. Or at least blogged.

3) And again with the unintentional irony - this is hardly a Joycean article Ray's writing here. In the dim recesses of my mind, I think at one time I made ironic fun of a different poorly-written article that compared modern communication unfavorably to Joyce. But I'm too lazy to search for that post.

4) And can I point out - Ulysses is finished. We don't all have to turn in our own chapter of it, or anything. Not everyone aspires to be James Joyce, or should; if everyone sat around 7 years writing classic literature, wow, we'd be boring ass people. And very, very poor.

Or maybe, 200,000 years after having learned how to speak, and 5,000 years after learning to write, mankind has reached a new stage in the evolution of communication, which will bring us a new truth. And, as Steven Colbert recently tweeted, "How many roads must a man walk down before he is run over by an eighteen-wheeler of truth?"

Lesson 1: Stephen Colbert is not always funny, or relevant to the topic at hand.

Lesson 2: Sometimes it's not about truth. Sometimes it's just about whether you left your phone at home on the charger.

5:45 p.m. Update: Oh, I'm not done. I thought of something else on the way home from work, so you'll have to endure more of my spirited defense of trivial conversing. As I've mentioned before here on my blog - one of the excellent things about Twitter is that my sister Stacy , who lives in England, is one of my twitter friends. So it's wonderful to hear the narration of her day, and to share mine with her, because she's so far away. Sure, we could write emails to one another, or letters, but those things never capture the small delights and sorrows of everyday life, like the time that she had to stop one of her (developmentally disabled) clients from eating tree bark. Or the day she had to have her dog Ollie put to sleep. And then there was that day one of her clients grabbed her breast and she accidentally shouted about it into the building's intercom system. (Stacy is, BTW, is one of the funniest people alive. Perhaps the Funny Times should consider firing Ray Lesser and hiring her.)

And then there's my friend Dan1657 - who's already been mentioned here. He's been my friend for over 20 years, and is one of those warm and funny people you can't help but love and want to be around always. Despite the fact that I've known him for so long and he lives 5 blocks away, I've learned a myriad little things about him on twitter that I otherwise never would have known at all; things that make me laugh out loud (his twittering while drunk), as well as worry - like the fact that he has trouble getting to sleep.

In the book "Pattern Recognition" there's a repeated reference to a "Mirror World" effect that happens when you're traveling - the strange awareness that the city you're in is familiar, but different than your own; little things like the electrical outlets, and the way people lock up their bikes, or the ways window shades are constructed are all different than where you live, so you recognize their purpose, but marvel at their design.

Twitter does the same thing to my friends; I recognize the thousand ways my friend's lives are just like mine, but slightly different - and I marvel at the detail.

Weekend Update (or - an extended twitter, for those who are not on it.)

We went to Woodruff Place Flea Market yesterday, and only got done with middle drive before I pooped out because I was hot and tired. It was also kind of a pain with Spike. I've taken him to it before, but it was far more crowded this time, so I had to think about him all the time, which was very distracting.

We found a loveseat, though, for $30 for the library. After bringing that home and installing it in the library, I took a nap, and Stephanie went grocery shopping. Then we cooked out hamburgers and turkey burgers and sausages, and I mowed, because it looked like rain. Then I did a bunch of work on my route 66 music mix, and hung out looking at the internets and watching crappy movies on the romance channel.

Today, I have a list of stuff to do, but I'm still kinda tired for some reason, so I don't know how much of it I'll get to.

I'd like to point out that my birthday is Wednesday, and I'll be celebrating the occasion sometime on the following weekend, which is also Gay Pride, and the Talbott Street Art Fair. I'm thinking I might plan for a Friday birthday celebration.

links for 2007-06-02